After the first day of classes at Exeter Summer School, the bookstore is packed with students trying to purchase the textbooks they need. Depending on which and how many classes the student is taking, the cost of these textbooks can range from $20 to $300, according to bookstore staff. They also say that the average cost of books is around $100, for the Summer Session students. Students buy the books for their summer classes, and many sell them back at the end of the session.
According to the bookstore, they usually pay about 33 percent, or a third of their original price. The option to sell back books is beneficial for students who live far away and would not want to bring their heavy textbooks home with them. However, the initial selling price of the textbooks is extremely high. A language textbook I bought was $180 — used! By selling back a $180 textbook, I could receive a substantial amount back, but the difference is still too high. For some students on scholarship the cost of textbooks is included, but for others it is not, which creates a problem when they cost as much as they do now. This is not only a problem for the summer school, but also the regular session, other boarding schools, colleges, and universities around the world.
However, this problem is not easily solved. Some students suggested including textbook prices in the tuition, but with the number of students and the variety of classes being taken this would become very complicated. Another solution could be giving the students a discounted price for the summer school, although for a $180 textbook, the price could only be reduced a certain amount, which would most likely still be large.
The best solution to this issue is fitting for our generation as a whole; using online textbooks. At my school, for years my math textbook has been online. This is not only more ecological, but also solves the problem of cost. Most online textbook programs cost very little, if anything, and are usually paid for by the school. To institute a change like this requires the textbooks to be available online, which is not necessarily very common, although over time this will become more frequent. Carrying 2-3 textbooks around to classes everyday becomes arduous, and having these texts online solves that problem as well.
Several years ago a system was instituted at Princeton University called the Princeton Textbook Exchange. This application connects students and allows them to buy and sell textbooks, within their community. With the variety of courses offered, students are able to purchase a textbook in almost any subject field they could possibly need. With the bookstore no longer buying the books from an outside supplier, and just involving the students, the books would be sold at a much lower price. Although on a smaller scale, an exchange similar to this could provide Exeter students with a cheaper, easier way to purchase the textbooks they need.